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Mushroom Mania

Updated on September 9, 2019
Deepa damodaran profile image

Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.

When It Rains..

Western Ghats: A Mushroom Haven

Close to the wilderness of Western Ghats, the most majestic mountain series of South India, there are stretches of farm lands nourished by this rich biodiversity hotspot. If one loves the wet freshness of a rain forest-linked farm ecosystem, and indeed dare the swarming mosquito populations, one can find a few hidden treasures here- the wild mushrooms of all hues and shapes.

They thrive mostly on the damp floor and fallen and decaying wood parts. There are colonies of them as well as loners. A few of them can be identified by a mushroom enthusiast easily but a few retain their mysterious identity until scrutinized by an expert botanist. However, simply looking at them is worth the walk.

Of the around 14000 species of mushrooms found and identified from around the world, 750 species can be found in Western Ghats.[1] Here are a few from that 750 odd mushroom species collection of Western Ghats, all of them photographed in a homestead farm in Kerala.


[1] Dr.Anand, T. and Pereira, G.N., (September 27, 2008), The fascinating world of mushrooms, daijiworld.com, Retrieved from http://www.daijiworld.com/chan/exclusive_arch.asp?ex_id=960

Bracket Fungi

Bracket Fungi

Bracket fungi are also called polypores and they have a comparatively hard and wood-like body. They can be found on live and dead tree trunks and are easily identifiable. They grow out of the heartwood of the trees and eventually cause the trees to rot and decay, and it is the bracket-shaped bodies of this fungus that led it to be named bracket fungi. Beech and Ash trees are highly susceptible to bracket fungi infections. This group of fungi comes in many breathtaking colors and gradation. They are not as fragile as other mushrooms are. You can put some varnish on them and keep for many years intact in your drawing room or collectibles shelf.

Galerina Marginata

The below-given mushroom is a Galerina marginata found in Asia as well as in Australia, Europe, and North America. This is not an edible mushroom though it looks very similar to certain edible mushrooms. So beware. The cap of this mushroom changes its shape from conical to near flat as it ages. The cap color also fades with age.

Galerina Marginata

Lycoperdaceae

The mushroom in the below given picture is Lycoperdaceae and its common name is puffball mushroom. This has the shape of a pestle. Usually this mushroom is a loner found growing on ground. Most of this family of mushrooms are edible but there are certain impostor mushrooms that imitate puffball mushrooms and if accidentally one eats them, one will end up in a hospital bed.

Puffball Mushroom

Some Other Unidentified Beauties of the Western Ghats

Mushroom Facts: Quite Interesting

Termite Hill Mushrooms

Humans are known to cultivate mushrooms but very few of us know termites also cultivate mushrooms. These mushrooms are seen on termite hills and are cultivated by termites to eat in order to supplement their diet with “enzymes and nitrogen”[1]. Once the mushrooms are fully grown, the termites start eating them. Western Ghats forests have plenty of termite hills in them. Even the homesteads in its watershed area have many. People in these regions believe the abandoned termite hills are inhabited by snakes and as they worship snake as god, they will ask their kids not to disturb termite hills.

Choosy Mushrooms

There are certain mushrooms that have a tree preference and they cannot be seen under any other tree than its preferred tree. There is a variety of Bolete mushroom that is seen only under Ash trees. Though it is not certain yet, this tree preference could be because these mushrooms exist symbiotically with a small creature called leaf curl ash aphids.[2]

Anonymous and Thriving

One surprising fact is there are thousands of unidentified fungi species still on earth and it is reported, scientists are identifying about 1200 new species every year.[3] New varieties of the very popular Porcini mushroom were identified for the first time when scientists put edible mushroom samples collected from London stores to lab testing.[4] No need to say consuming unidentified mushrooms can be dangerous or even fatal.

[1] Biodiversity in the western ghats: An information kit, nzdl.org, Retrieved from http://www.nzdl.org/gsdlmod?e=d-00000-00---off-0hdl--00-0----0-10-0---0---0direct-10---4-------0-1l--11-en-50---20-about---00-0-1-00-0--4----0-0-11-10-0utfZz-8-00&cl=CL1.2&d=HASHd10071ff5b9a81a2180c80.6.7&x=1

[2] Boletinellus merulioides, (n.d.), Mushroomexpert.com, Retrieved from http://www.mushroomexpert.com/boletinellus_merulioides.html

[3] You may have been eating mushrooms that were unknown to science, (n.d.), Smithsonian.com, Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/you-may-have-been-eating-mushrooms-unknown-science-180951974/

[4] You may have been eating mushrooms that were unknown to science, (n.d.), Smithsonian.com, Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/you-may-have-been-eating-mushrooms-unknown-science-180951974/

Together We Stand..

Coming back to the biodiversity of Western Ghats mushrooms, do have a look at those very tiny mushrooms growing on decaying organic matter as seen in the picture below. That brings us to the size of different mushrooms. However there is no authentic information about which mushroom is the biggest and which one the smallest.

In the next picture, one can see three types of mushrooms growing near to each other, that is, on a decaying log. They are quite a friendly and sociable lot, it seems.

Oysters and Fake Oysters

There are many wild mushrooms that look like the cultivable and edible oyster mushrooms, but none of them are edible. It is intriguing why nature has fitted into our edible mushroom basket, so many impostors. Rather it is human folly that makes us think of them as impostors. They are as original as the edible ones when it comes to mother nature's logic of things.

Oyster Lookalikes

Mushrooms That Bring Rain

Ants and frogs that takes refuge under the umbrella of a mushroom when it rains; sounds familiar? Our fairy tales are full of them! Such tales tell us mushrooms grow in size when it rains. What if mushrooms can also make it rain? In 2016, the reputed science magazine, Scientific American reported that the millions of mushroom spores floating in our atmosphere provide the solid surface for water to condense, thus enabling rain cloud formation.[1] The mushroom spores are not the lone agents in this process but they take a part along with dirt particles, pollen, and so on.[2] Anyway, they have earned a position as “rain seeds” indeed.[3]

The rest of my mushroom stories and mushroom pictures I am going to store away for another time. Next time when you walk outside after it rains, keep a look out for these delicate beauties that can often outperform flowers in their grace and posture.


[1] Frazer, J. (February 24, 2016), Made by rain, mushrooms also make it, Scientificamerican.com, Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/made-by-rain-mushrooms-also-make-it/

[2] Frazer, J. (February 24, 2016), Made by rain, mushrooms also make it, Scientificamerican.com, Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/made-by-rain-mushrooms-also-make-it/

[3] Frazer, J. (February 24, 2016), Made by rain, mushrooms also make it, Scientificamerican.com, Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/made-by-rain-mushrooms-also-make-it/

© 2018 Deepa

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